Apart from PUBG’s success story, India’s esports sector has been fuelled off late by other key factors such as low-cost data, smartphone and gaming hardware and devices’ proliferation and the constantly growing career prospects and opportunities in India
By Parth Chadha
The ongoing pandemic has led to disastrous consequences for several industries of our country, whereas on the flipside for many others, it has emerged as a boon or a force-and-growth-multiplier. One such industry where Covid-19 has enabled accelerated and unforeseen levels of traction and growth is, of course, the esports sector in India.
To put it simply, esports refers to any kind organized multiplayer video gaming events or competitions, where usually professional gamers participate, either individually or in teams. Over the last few decades, the spectacular rise of esports has been a significant driving factor in furthering the growth momentum of the gaming industry worldwide. Similarly, in India, the esports scene has been booming and growing manifold in recent years, especially since the success and popularity gained by PUBG Mobile tournaments and/or esports titles around 2018-19. Interestingly, even after PUBG was banned in India by the Indian Government last year (due to privacy concerns), it did not deter the Indian esports community to quickly change gear and move over to other action games like FreeFire, Call of Duty, DOTA, and many more!
Apart from PUBG’s success story, India’s esports sector has been fuelled off late by other key factors such as low-cost data, smartphone and gaming hardware and devices’ proliferation and the constantly growing career prospects and opportunities in India in the gaming and esports space, among others. However, even with the presence of all such catalyst-like factors, the esports sector in India was growing albeit at a sluggish pace, before the pandemic happened. But, immediately after our Government imposed a nationwide lockdown to curb the Covid-19 spread around March-end 2020, there was a massive boost in engagement across various segments of gaming, including esports and competitive gaming. In the months following the lockdown, various industry reports and estimates have suggested that the Covid-19 impact actually provided an impressive and humongous fillip to India’s esports sector.
So, what exactly has changed or improved in Indian esports arena after Covid happened? To begin with, the after-effects of the Covid-19-led exponential boom in gaming that we witnessed since March-April of last year resulted in the numbers of fans, viewers and players in the competitive gaming domain also increasing substantially and rapidly. While some physical esports events had to be cancelled due to the social distancing protocols related to the pandemic, but the focus quickly shifted to online-only, spectator-free competitive gaming tournaments and esports. At the same time, the prize pool and rewards for most esports tournaments and championships kept soaring to newer and greater heights, with some of them even offering upto several lakhs in prize money to the winners/top performers for acing a tournament!
Another key development that we witnessed in the Indian esports sector through the last one year or so has been the increased levels of attention from the investors and private brands/companies alike. With India now emerging as a global powerhouse of talent and massive growth potential in esports, a lot of small to big-sized brands (includes both gaming and non-gaming companies) are looking to have their piece of India’s thriving esports pie, by jumping into the gaming and esports bandwagon through various innovative avenues such as title sponsorships, player or squad sponsorships or collaborations, in-game brand promotions and so on.
On the Road Ahead for Esports in India
Covid-19 undoubtedly has aided in a major way the Indian esports industry to reach its peak potential; starting from last year’s lockdown to the unlock stages and then again currently facing another round of lockdowns or semi-lockdowns (because of the ongoing Covid second wave in India) — throughout this entire time period – we Indians have started embracing the massive potential of esports and real money-based competitive gaming, and also understood how esports and online gaming can help gamers in earning considerably good income and in making a lucrative career too.
Going forward, even as esports becomes mainstream with its introduction in Asian Games and other major sports events in India and the world, there still remains a huge scope and opportunity for even higher levels of growth and progress of India’s esports sector. Keeping this in mind, all the stakeholders in India’s already fledging esports ecosystem need to come together based on a collaborative and community-first approach, while continuing to adapt and implement best practices and strategic initiatives from esports around the globe, but at the same time prioritizing on introducing, promoting and/or incentivizing Indigenous innovations in gaming and esports, including products, technologies, games and gaming platforms etc. Over the long term, in our country, there is also a need for stronger regulations and/or regulatory mechanisms in order to redefine esports (which till date is being used in India mostly as a broad, somewhat vague and all-encompassing term), and embed into the nation’s esports sector the aspects of transparency, accountability as well as bigger and better opportunities for the ever-growing pool of esports aficionados/enthusiasts in India.
Given we focus and work consistently on the above-mentioned areas for the betterment and sustainable growth of India’s esports sector, the day may not be far when esports athletes in India shall be able to compete with our cricketers and other physical sports’ players!
The author is founder and CEO of EWar Games. Views expressed are personal